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Building a resilient future for tea production in Africa


Roy Bouwer


January 18, 2022


Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world, topped only by water. But beyond being many’s cup of choice, tea is also a vital source of income and livelihoods for the communities that boast the suitable climate conditions for growing tea. Kenya, Malawi and Rwanda are among the few countries across the world that have the right blend of land and climate conditions suitable for growing high quality tea. 

Domestic consumption in these countries is also relatively low when compared to other major producers such as China and India, making tea a valuable export crop for Africa. African tea producers account for about a third of tea exports internationally, and tea production makes up a significant portion of GDP earning and is a source for millions of jobs in Kenya, Malawi and Rwanda. 

However, the crucial blend of suitable agro-climate conditions which are favorable for tea are under threat from climate change, requiring urgent action to safeguard future tea production in Africa.

Women pick tea leaves in Mulanje in December 2016 (Source: Katharine Vincent).

During the Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) programme researchers looked to provide locally-relevant climate information and appropriate adaptation options for tea production in Africa. This included research in Rwanda carried out by the CCKE and Paul Watkiss Associates, as well as the Climate Information for Resilient Tea Production (CI4TEA) project in Kenya and Malawi carried out by the UMFULA and HyCRISTAL projects. 

new report and two accompanying infographics produced by FCFA synthesize the key research from the programme. These products highlight the climate risks facing African tea producers, and how climate change may add additional stressors, while outlining potential adaptation options to ensure the sustainability of the sector in the future. 

Due to the long life of tea plants and their sensitivity to the climate, it is vital that climate information informs both current practice and future planning. In order to highlight how tea production might be affected under different climate scenarios, the first infographic illustrates the varying impacts which could be expected in a changing climate. This includes increasing heat stress in a warmer climate, leaves drying out in a drier climate or damage by increased flooding under a wetter climate.

Infographic: The Impacts Of Climate Change On Tea Production In Africa
Infographic: The Impacts Of Climate Change On Tea Production In Africa
Infographic: How Can Africa's Tea Growers Adapt To Climate Change
Infographic: How Can Africa's Tea Growers Adapt To Climate Change

The second of these infographics outlines the various adaptation options which could be implemented to combat various climate risks such as increasing heat, increasing and longer dry spells and heavier, more erratic rainfall. These options such as climate smart agricultural practices, planting shade trees and irrigation are broadly categorized into low regret, climate smart planning or early activities for future changes. While these options can support the resilience of tea, they should be locally-relevant and cost-effective to promote future sustainability for tea production. 

FCFA hopes this synthesis report and the infographics will raise awareness for the risks and adaptation options for tea growers in Africa. Adaptation within the tea sector should be urgently implemented and informed by climate information and local contexts to safeguard the livelihoods of those involved in the growing and production of tea. Co-producing local context specific climate information is key to ensuring the resilience of the tea sector and to support continued growth in the future.


Read the full report here

See the infographics ‘The Impacts Of Climate Change On Tea Production In Africa‘ and ‘How Can Africa’s Tea Growers Adapt To Climate Change